The New York-based group Human Rights in China has obtained what it purports to be the full text of a speech made to the Chinese legislative body by Wang Chen, the head of the country’s State Council Information Office, one of China’s top Internet regulators. Although the speech was covered briefly in Chinese media at the time, Human Right in China says the full transcript was quickly taken down; however, the speech apparently outlined plans to dramatically cut down on anonymous Internet access in China, including requirements to tie all Internet access—and all online postings—to real identities.
The system would start by “implementing a system to require real-name identification of forum moderators and a function that successfully removes ‘anonymous comments’ on news stories” on major news and commercial Web sites.” Wang Chen also proposes tying real names to all cell phones in China. “We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes. ”
Although the remarks do not indicate official Chinese policy, they do underscore the Chinese government’s discomfort with the diversity of opinion in the online world, and its desire to eliminate access to information it believes is sensitive or subverts state power. China runs the largest online censorship operation on the planet; and with over 400 million Internet users, the country also represents the world’s largest Internet market.
However, not all China’s efforts to control Internet access are successful: last year, the country announced it was going to mandate Green Dam Youth Escort firewall software be installed on all new PCs sold in the country, with the stated goal of protecting children from violent and pornographic content on the Internet. However, the move met with strong resistance from computer makers as well as from the broader Chinese public: not only was Green Dam found to block politically sensitive content, but many argued the software itself posed a significant security risk to computer users, since a single flaw in the application could, in theory, expose the entire Chinese Internet-using public to scammers, malware, and worse. Green Dam is installed on an estimated 20 million PCs in China, but the country delayed requiring it be installed on all new PCs.
However, now word comes that the company behind the Green Dam software is all but gone, having shuttered its Beijing offices. Dazheng Language and Knowledge Processing Research Center received on the order of $6 million from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to develop the software; Green Dam would have been free to users, but PC manufacturers would have had to pay per-year license fees to MIIT to install the mandated software on new computers. Reports have the firm saying it shuttered its Beijing operations in late June and on the verge of bankruptcy.
Green Dam’s developers were also sued by Solid Oak software for allegedly stealing code from their CyberSitter Internet filtering software.
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